The town of Dionysus
Balchik is home to one of the few temples of the goddess Cybele built in Bulgarian landsAdelina Lozanova
Balchik is a small town on the north Bulgarian Black Sea coastline, standing on picturesque white hills sloping down to the sea. The first settlers in the region were the ancient Thracians, and evidence of their presence in these lands (vessels, adornments and weapons) has been found in the town and its surroundings.
During the Greek colonisation of the Black Sea region in the 7th-6th centuries BC, settlers from the city of Miletus founded Kruni (meaning “springs”), the predecessor of modern Balchik. The settlement was later renamed Dionysopolis in honour of the Thracian god of wine Dionysus. In the middle of the 6th century BC, the city ran a busy overseas trade and had a good production base and a rich hinterland.
The city continued this prosperous stage of its development in the Hellenistic period dominated by the conquests of Philip II and Alexander the Great. It was during that time that one of the modern landmarks of Balchik was created - the temple of Cybele, also known as the Mother Goddess. Abounding in statues, friezes, figured compositions and decorations, the temple holds a depiction of the goddess in a long cloak sitting on a throne with a sceptre in her left hand and a lion in her lap.
The city was abandoned during the barbaric invasions of the Balkans in the 4th-7th centuries, only to be revived during the medieval Bulgarian kingdom. The Karvuna fortress lent its name to the region, which was referred to as the Karvuna land for a long time, while Balchik became the main city of Dobrudzha.
The city got its current name at the end of the 14th century. It is believed that the name was derived from the Turkish word for mud (balcik) because of the white mudslides running down the hills with each rain. The city was mentioned as Balchik in 1653 by the Turkish historian and traveller Evliya Celebi.
Modern Balchik's biggest landmark is the architectural park complex Balchik Palace, built in 1924-1934 to serve as a summer residence of Romanian Queen Maria. The venue encompasses the buildings of the palace complex and the botanical gardens, created after the liberation of South Dobrudzha and boasting the second largest cactus collection in Europe (to that of Monaco) and some unique plants.
Another of the city's landmarks is St Nicholas the Wonderworker Church which dates back to 1848. The church has a year-round exhibition - Revival Period Icons from Dobrudzha Area. The stone fountains, the large trade buildings made of stone and the houses kept in the traditional style of the Revival Period are also among the architectural monuments the city has to offer.